Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 23% compared to 2020

There are 23% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 53% more Republican primaries and 8% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 10%.

These figures include elections in 39 states that account for 5,011 of 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (81%).

A primary is contested when there are more candidates running than available nominations, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last update on Aug. 1, we have added post-filing deadline data from Florida and Vermont. Overall, 11 states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 20 have Republican trifectas, and eight have divided governments.

Of the 39 states in this analysis, 36 are holding partisan primaries. Three states—California, Nebraska, and Washington—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in 11 states, decreased in 21, and remains the same in three. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 31 states, decreased in four, and is unchanged in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for an increase in primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting creates new districts and, by extension, more primary opportunities. Currently, the total number of possible primaries affected by these changes is up 3.0% compared to 2020.

For states like New Mexico and South Carolina, where only one chamber is up for election every two years, only those chambers holding elections in 2022 that also held elections in 2020 are included.

Ballotpedia will continue to update these figures as information becomes available. In addition to this analysis, Ballotpedia collects competitiveness statistics at all levels of government, available here. This data is calculated following candidate filing deadlines and readjusted at the time of the primary to account for any changes to candidate lists.

Alaska governor signs bill to formally recognize federally recognized American Indian tribes

On July 28, 2022, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) signed House Bill 123 (HB 123) into law, which would formally recognize 229 federally recognized American Indian tribes in Alaska. The bill was approved by the state legislature on May 17, 2022, before going to the governor’s desk.

“House Bill 123 codifies in law what Alaskans have long recognized: the important role that Native Tribes play in our past, present, and future,” said Gov. Dunleavy in a statement.

Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-38), who sponsored the bill, called this action long overdue. “While the inherent sovereignty of Alaska Tribes has been consistently affirmed in Federal policy, in rulings by the Supreme Court, and by Executive Order in 2018, the signing of House Bill 123 provides formal recognition in statute for the first time in our State’s history,” she said.

HB 123 adds a section to Alaska state statute that recognizes federally recognized tribes. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, a federally recognized tribe is “an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States, with the responsibilities, powers, limitations, and obligations attached to that designation, and is eligible for funding and services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

Initially, the move for the state to recognize American Indian tribes in Alaska came from a ballot initiative that was intended to be placed on the 2022 ballot. The initiative was filed by Wáahlaal Gíidaak Barbara Blake, Chaa yaa eesh Richard Peterson, and La quen náay Liz on August 11, 2021. The Alaskans for Better Government PAC was registered in support of the measure. 

“With a respectful partnership we’ll have more ways to enhance the lives of Alaskans by streamlining services; partnering to amplify federal and state funding for deep, sustainable, and long-term impact; and tapping in to the 10,000 plus years of Indigenous brilliance, diversity, and knowledge of our Native homelands that so many now call home,” the Alaskans for Better Government campaign said, “The basis of any good relationship is respect, and too often when sovereign governments cannot work together our Tribal peoples disproportionately bear the price of injustice, diminishing equity, liberty, and freedoms for all.”

In Alaska, the initiative process for state statutes is indirect. This means that rather than a campaign submitting signatures to put the initiative directly on the ballot the initiative first goes to the state legislature. The state legislature then has a chance to approve or reject the measure. If the state legislature rejects the measure, the measure goes to the ballot for voters to decide. If the state legislature approves the measure, it goes to the governor’s desk for approval.

The Alaskans for Better Government campaign submitted 56,200 signatures on January 13, 2022. Of that total, 47,199 signatures were found to be valid on March 3, 2022. The number of required signatures to send the initiative to the state legislature was 36,140.

In 2021, several legislators introduced House Bill 123, which Alaskans for Better Government described as “functionally identical and… written to serve the same purpose” as the ballot initiative. Instead of considering the initiative, the state legislature approved HB 123 in May.

Since the measure was passed by the state legislature, it will not appear on the ballot but instead will go into effect immediately.

Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka called this formal recognition a ‘historic step’. 

“The cultural survival of our Indigenous people is dependent on our ability to maintain our values, practice our traditions, and maintain freedom to live our lives well with dignity and respect for each other,” she said. “We have strengthened our tribal governments and have initiated multiple efforts to continue our path to self-determination and self-governance. The formal recognition through this legislation is an historic step for us to have a successful relationship with the state.”

Additional reading:

Alaska 2022 ballot measures

Newcomers will represent at least 32% of Vermont’s state legislative seats next year

Fifty-seven state legislative seats up for election in Vermont this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This represents 32% of the state’s legislature, a marked increase compared to recent election cycles.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers are guaranteed to win all open seats.

Vermont restructured its House and Senate during the state’s redistricting process. Previously, the state had 117 state legislative districts containing 180 seats. After redistricting, there are 125 districts, still containing 180 seats.

While the number of open seats increased this year, other competitiveness metrics—like the number of contested primaries—decreased compared to the 2020 election cycle.

Across all districts, there are 24 contested primaries, representing 10% of all possible primaries.

A contested primary is one where there are more candidates running than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

There are 17 Democratic primaries, a 23% decrease from 2020. Republicans are holding seven contested primaries, the same number as in 2020.

Overall, 276 major party candidates filed to run for the state’s 150 House and 30 Senate seats this year: 174 Democrats and 102 Republicans.

Vermont has had a divided government since Republicans won the governorship in 2016. Democrats hold a 91-46 majority in the House, with 12 other seats held by minor party or independent officeholders and one vacancy. The party holds a 21-7 majority in the Senate, with two seats held by minor party officeholders.

Vermont’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9, the 12th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Vermont House of Representatives elections, 2022

Vermont State Senate elections, 2022

Lake, Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Kari Lake, who won the Republican primary for governor of Arizona on Aug. 2, completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in May 2022. The Candidate Connection survey is an opportunity for voters to learn more about candidates through a variety of personal and political questions. 

A selection of Lake’s survey responses are excerpted below. To read Lake’s full survey responses, click here.

Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Securing our Border is essential for the safety and security of Arizona’s future. I will finish Trump’s Wall & stop Biden’s cartel-controlled flood at our borders”
  • “Secure elections are essential to preserve our Republic, and our state”
  • “Arizona faces enormous challenges, we need a visionary leader to take them head-on”

What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“Securing our border & our elections while locating and developing a new source of fresh water, reducing inflation and out-of-control housing costs, quality education with a renewed focus on technical education, creating smart economic growth, addressing our homelessness crisis, ensuring our businesses, churches and gyms are never closed again, and putting a stop to spiraling crime rates that are making our cities and towns less safe.” 

What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?

“I am convicted, not held back by political convention. Politics has become the art of saying everything, and accomplishing nothing. I do not accept that outcome. We need a governor with the courage to take on big challenges.”

What legacy would you like to leave?

“A better state than the one we’ve had. But, more specifically, the next governor of Arizona must address our looming water crisis in a sustainable, permanent manner, while also working to fix Arizona’s housing shortage and ensuring our next phase of growth doesn’t make our state and our biggest cities unlivable the way it has on our coasts.”

Kari Lake wins Republican primary for governor of Arizona

Kari Lake defeated Karrin Taylor Robson, Scott Neely, and Paola Tulliani-Zen in the Republican primary for governor of Arizona on Aug. 2, 2022. With 90% of the expected vote counted, Lake had received 47% of the vote, followed by Taylor Robson with 44%. 

Incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is term-limited. 

Heading into the primary, Lake and Taylor Robson led in endorsements, polls, and funding.

Lake, a former news anchor for Fox 10 News in Phoenix, said she was “running … on a platform of common sense conservatism dedicated to individual liberties, low taxes, limited regulation, and protecting Arizona’s great Western heritage.” Lake said, ” The ongoing border crisis is nothing less than a national security and humanitarian disaster.” She said, “After I take my hand off the Bible, we are going to issue a declaration of invasion. We are going to finish President Trump’s wall, and we are going to send our armed National Guard to the border and stop people from coming across.”

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Lake, as did U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the Conservative Political Action Coalition, and the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police.

Taylor Robson, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents and founder of a land-use strategy firm, said, “We need a leader with a record of accomplishment, not a career talker with the teleprompter.” Taylor Robson said that border security would be her first priority and that she would “surge National Guard troops to the border, equip the Border Strike Force with the latest technology, and finish the wall.” She also said, “I am uniquely qualified to lead this state into the future and to secure and protect Arizona’s water. My experience includes decades managing land, water and other natural resource issues, as well as working with government at all levels.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence (R), Ducey, and former Arizona Govs. Jan Brewer (R) and John Fife Symington III (R) endorsed Taylor Robson, as did Arizona state Senate President Karen Fann (R), Americans for Prosperity, and the National Border Patrol Council. Former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon (R) withdrew from the primary and endorsed Taylor Robson at the end of June.

Lake said she would not have certified the results of the 2020 presidential election. She said that President Joe Biden (D) “lost the election and he shouldn’t be in the White House.” Taylor Robson said, “Joe Biden may be the president, but the election wasn’t fair.”

Patrick Finerd, Carlos Roldan, and Alex Schatz ran as write-ins in the primary.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs won the Democratic nomination on Aug. 2. Major independent observers rate the general election as a toss-up. Republicans have had trifecta control of Arizona state government since 2009.

California Propositions 26 and 27 become the most expensive ballot measures in California since 1999 

Committees supporting and opposing California Propositions 26 and 27, which would enact in-person and mobile sports betting respectively, have raised over $256.4 million becoming the most expensive ballot measures in California history. The committees eclipsed the 2020 app-based drivers initiative, Proposition 22, which raised $224.3 million.

Proposition 26, backed by American Indian tribes, would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California. Proposition 27, which is supported by BetMGM LLC, FanDuel Sportsbook, and DraftKings, would legalize online and mobile sports betting. 

The latest campaign finance filings filed on Aug. 1 cover through June 30. The Yes on 26, No on 27 – Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming PAC is leading the campaigns supporting Proposition 26 and opposing Proposition 27. The PAC reported over $73 million in contributions.

No on 26 – Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies is leading the campaign against Proposition 26. The campaign, along with the now terminated No on the Gambling Power Grab PAC, raised $42.24 million. The top donors to the opposition were gambling-related companies, including the California Commerce Club, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Knighted Ventures LLC, Park West Casinos, The Bicycle Hotel & Casino, and PT Gaming LLC.

Yes on 27 – Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support PAC was registered to support Proposition 27. The PAC raised over $100 million with BetMGM LLC, FanDuel Sportsbook, and DraftKings each contributing $16.7 million.

No on 27 – Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming PAC was also registered to oppose Proposition 27. It reported over $41.1 million in contributions. The top contributors were the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservation California, and the Pala Casino Resort Spa.

Based on available reports on Cal-Access, which provides information on campaign finance from 1999 to the present, the next most expensive measures behind Proposition 26, Proposition 27, and Proposition 22 were four veto referendums against gaming compacts—Propositions 94, 95, 96, and 97—that raised a combined total of $154.5 million in contributions. 

The following table illustrates the top eight most expensive ballot measures between 1999 and 2020.

Californians will decide on seven ballot propositions this November. Ballotpedia is tracking 11 committees surrounding the measures with a total of $352.1 million in contributions.

Additional reading:

California Proposition 26, Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative (2022)

California Proposition 27, Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Fund Initiative (2022)

Trudy Busch Valentine wins Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Missouri

Trudy Busch Valentine won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Missouri on August 2, 2022. She received 43.2% of the vote based on unofficial returns. Lucas Kunce came in second place with 38.4%. Nine other candidates also ran in the primary with no one receiving more than 5%.

Busch Valentine is a former nurse and heiress of the Anheuser-Busch brewing company. She was endorsed by a former U.S. senator, one current and one former U.S. representative, the current and two most recent mayors of St. Louis, and 12 state legislators.

Kunce works at the American Economic Liberties Project and served in the United States Marine Corps. He was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and three state legislators.

Busch Valentine will face Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) in the November 8 general election. Three independent race forecasters rate the race as either Likely Republican or Solid Republican. Donald Trump won the state in the 2020 presidential election with 56.8% of the vote.

More responses to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection from Missouri roll in

Below are a selection of responses from the candidates who filled out Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey since July 17. To read each candidate’s full responses, click their name at the bottom of the article.

Manny Abarca (D) is running for Jackson County Legislature to represent District 1 and is on the ballot in the general election on Nov. 8. Here’s how Abarca responded to the question “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?”

“I am mostly interested in establishing a transparent and fair foundation for County government. Every issue area after that can have an unbiased shot at getting passed.

Here are a few of the issues I highlight online: 

  • Property Tax Reform Plan 
  • Establishment of a Senior Services Fund 
  • Support for Working Families 
  • Access to Parks and Conservation 
  • Efficiency in our Government 
  • Promotion of Arts and Culture 
  • Efficient Regional Healthcare Pipeline 
  • Jackson County Nondiscrimination Act and Equity Policy 
  • Economic Development and Infrastructure Investment”

Click here to read the rest of Abarca’s answers. 

Megan Marshall is running for election to the Jackson County Legislature to represent District 3 At-Large and is on the ballot in the general election on Nov. 8. Here’s how Marshall responded to the question “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

“We don’t need any more politicians content in their Ivory Towers – dismissive and indifferent to the needs of working people. Those who refuse to put service before self. Our communities deserve engaged and responsive leaders. Not those who believe getting your vote is the end of their service.

I’m committed to constituent engagement across Jackson County. I will be the most accessible legislator in county government. Engagement and accessibility has not been a hallmark of county government and that must change. Taxpayers deserve to know who their representatives are and feel confident their concerns are part of the decision-making process. When residents across our county are left in the dark, it breeds distrust. When representatives are not committed to listening to taxpayer concerns, their decisions lack proper responsiveness and instead worsen the lives of residents. I will continue listening to the concerns of taxpayers and work diligently to deliver meaningful change.

The budget is reflective of what a government values. What government values should reflect what taxpayers value, because policymakers’ first obligation should always be to those they represent – not their own interests. Residents of Jackson County want property tax relief, affordable housing, reduced crime, greater access to mental health and drug recovery services, and most importantly, confidence that their county government is working for them.”

Click here to read the rest of Marshall’s answers. 

If you’re a Missouri candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. The survey contains over 30 questions, and you can choose the ones you feel will best represent your views to voters. If you complete the survey, a box with your answers will display on your Ballotpedia profile. Your responses will also populate the information that appears in our mobile app, My Vote Ballotpedia.

If you’re not running for office but you would like to know more about candidates in Missouri, share the link and urge them to take the survey!

Additional reading:

Scott Fitzpatrick wins contested Missouri auditor primary

Alan Green (D), Scott Fitzpatrick (R), and John Hartwig (L) won their respective primaries for Missouri State Auditor on Aug. 2, 2022. Green and Hartwig ran unopposed; Fitzpatrick received 64.7% of the vote based on unofficial returns. David Gregory was the only other Republican candidate. The general election will take place on Nov. 8.

Green is a former police officer and has held several positions in the Missouri government. Most recently he was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, representing District 67. He completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey and his answers can be found here.

Fitzpatrick currently holds the office of Missouri State Treasurer. He was appointed to the position in Dec. 2018. Fitzpatrick is a former member of the Missouri House of Representatives, representing District 158.

Hartwig is an Army veteran and his career experience includes working as a certified public accountant. Hartwig completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey and his answers can be found here.

Nicole Galloway (D) is the current Missouri State Auditor. She was appointed in 2015 by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) to serve the remainder of former Auditor Thomas Schweich’s (R) term. She did not run for re-election in 2022 and her term expires on Jan. 9, 2023. 

The Office of State Auditor acts as Missouri’s independent watchdog agency, working to ensure the proper use of public funds and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Missouri government. This is achieved through auditing of state agencies, boards, and commissions, the circuit court system, the counties in Missouri that do not have a county auditor, and other political subdivisions upon request.

Additional reading:

Texas sues Biden administration over guidance requiring abortions in medical emergencies

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) sued the Biden administration July 14 after Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra released guidance July 11 requiring doctors to provide abortions in medical emergencies when “abortion is the stabilizing treatment necessary to resolve [the emergency] condition.” The guidance went on to say that “when a state law prohibits abortion and does not include an exception for the life and health of the pregnant person — or draws the exception more narrowly than EMTALA’s emergency medical condition definition — that state law is preempted.”

Paxton argued the guidance was too broad and that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act did not cover abortions. He said, “The Biden administration seeks to transform every emergency room in the country into a walk-in abortion clinic.”

Texas law prohibits all abortions unless a pregnancy “places the female at risk of death or poses a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”

The HHS guidance came after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, overturning Roe v. Wade (1973) and ruling there is no constitutional right to abortion. Dobbs returned most abortion policy decisions to the states.

For more information on Dobbs and its effect on abortion policy, click here. To learn more about state responses to federal mandates, click here.

Additional reading:

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

Abortion regulations by state